“When was the last time Brian Urlacher got off a block?”
That was Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones after leaving Urlacher off his list of top 10 linebackers for the NFL Network – a list in which Jones ranked himself No. 7.
Always willing to confront his critics, Urlacher responded with this gem (courtesy of the Chicago Tribune):
“I think we were drafted in the same class, right? … I haven’t heard anything about him since then,” Urlacher told “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on WMVP-AM 1000. “I saw him on a TV show with a bow tie on, though. So I know him better for the way he dresses than what he does on the football field. Look, guys are going to talk. I’ve definitely had a lot worse things said about me publicly from guys, so I can live with it.”
It never ceases to amaze me how much criticism Urlacher has received throughout his career. Does he miss tackles sometimes? Yes, as does Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews, Patrick Willis, DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the top linebackers. Play enough downs in the NFL and you’re going to blow your fair share of assignments. But that doesn’t mean that a player is overrated like some have suggested Urlacher is.
Urlacher’s critics should bone up on the Tampa 2 and what the middle linebacker’s responsibilities are in that defense. Then consider how Urlacher has played 11 seasons, has gone to seven Pro Bowls and was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. Nick Roach proved in 2009 that not just any linebacker could play the middle in the Tampa 2 and have success. And that’s not a knock on Roach – that’s a testament to how good Urlacher has been throughout his career. (2009 was also the year that the Bears defense fell to No. 16 overall, largely because Urlacher was lost for the season following a Week 1 injury suffered against the Packers.)
Jones and everyone else who think Urlacher is overrated have the right to their opinion. But I have a hard time believing that Jones could play the middle in a Tampa 2 even half as well as Urlacher has.